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Red Hat Competes in Crowded Market

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Linux

It’s no surprise that this year’s Datamation Product of the Year Award in the Enterprise Linux category was snagged by Red Hat. The open source pioneer, founded in 1995 (a mere four years after Linus Torvalds released the first Linux kernel) has long been the dominant Linux vendor.

But even a quick look at the burgeoning Linux market reveals that Red Hat faces a crowd of competitive threats. A competitor lurks behind every server.

The deep-pocketed Oracle offers a clone of the Red Hat OS, as does the popular CentOS distro. Ubuntu is capturing legions of hearts and minds with its easy-to-use desktop releases. Novell SUSE (which supported Xen virtualization before Red Hat did) touts its Microsoft interoperability agreement – in theory reassuring Windows-based sysadmins. Sun Microsystems claims its OpenSolaris project has in excess of 10,000 members. And Hewlett-Packard offers support for Debian on some of its servers. (In 2006, HP claimed that $25 million in hardware sales was due to its Debian support.)

Still, said Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff, in the x86 world, Red Hat has “established itself as the go-to Linux for enterprise software certification. Novell SUSE also has a pretty good portfolio of certified apps, but in terms of market share it’s quite a ways behind.” The lopsided market share battle between this David and Goliath is, depending on who’s counting, 90 percent to 10 percent.

(However, Haff said, “Frankly there’s not that much difference, from a product perspective, between the different enterprise Linux products out there.”)

A key advantage Red Hat has over its competitors is its sheer longevity.

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